Thursday, January 23, 2020

Standout Performers from Senior Bowl Practices

Photo: ESPN

Senior Bowl practices have concluded in Mobile! While watching the television broadcast, several players stood out. Daniel House wrote about all of the standout performers! 

by: Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL)
Video credit: ESPN and NFL Network (fair use)

When scouts are evaluating prospects at the Senior Bowl, multiple players always grab everyone's attention. While viewing television coverage of practices, I was drawn to several position groups and players. It’s easy to see how much wide receiver talent is featured in this draft class. I’m also intrigued by the group of offensive tackles, including Houston product Josh Jones. After watching all of these players in practice this week, we’ll also have an opportunity to see who shines during Saturday’s game.

Here are a few clips and observations I had while watching the television broadcast:

The 2020 NFL Draft: Year of the WR

If you’re an NFL team looking for a wide receiver, this is the year to select one.

Entering Senior Bowl week, I knew the wide receiver class was filled with depth. However, after watching practices on television, I’m even more impressed. There are so many different playing styles within this group, too. Teams will have their choice between physical possession receivers and shifty slot targets. During every session, three or four wide receivers were always grabbing my attention.

Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson displayed his smooth route running and body control skills. He was getting separation off a variety of different routes and adjusted to make several difficult grabs in traffic. Jefferson is the son of former NFL wide receiver Shawn Jefferson. Van displayed above average technical skills and will continue to move up draft boards. In Jefferson's clips below, check out the lasers thrown by Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. He was zipping the ball during Thursday's session:

Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill has a knack for getting separation. He does a really nice job of varying his route tempos. Hill is smooth in and out of breaks and won many 1-on-1 matchups. This year, his route running skills and footwork made him very difficult to cover out of the slot.

When I saw reps from Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson, I was amazed at his athleticism. The camera angle below displays how well he moves at 6-foot-5, 221 pounds. His physicality, size and ball skills allow him to stretch the field vertically. Every time the broadcast showed a 1-on-1 drill, it felt like Johnson was getting separation.
The same can be said for USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who is a big-bodied receiver with savvy route-running skills. He didn’t practice on Thursday due to an injury, but made an impression on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims was another sleeper who shined in drills. During the reps ESPN aired, Mims displayed his athletic ability, size and contested catch skills. In Wednesday's team drills, Mims made a difficult grab in traffic against Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia. He also flashed on Thursday with a beautiful catch in the red zone. I love how he adjusted while accelerating upward. He also managed to flash his hands at the last second to bring in the pass.
An Underrated D-Line Prospect:

Jason Strowbridge, DL, UNC

Out of all the defensive linemen not named Javon Kinlaw, North Carolina's Jason Strowbridge was the most disruptive. He can play out of multiple alignments, including inside and off the edge. At 6-foot-4, 267 pounds, Strowbridge falls between a few different positions. If he adds a little weight and refines his technique, he could play 3-technique in the NFL. He features excellent length and moves really well for a player with his size. I’m also impressed with how he uses his hands to strike and fight through blockers. There’s no doubt he has to gain more weight to match up against NFL physicality. If Strowbridge is playing inside, muscling through blocks will be pivotal. This will certainly be a bigger challenge at the next level. Due to his playing style, teams can use Strowbridge’s versatility in a variety of different ways. This type of flexibility will help increase his value in the eyes of NFL teams. I’m excited to dig into more of his game film in the coming weeks.

Lloyd Cushenberry, Center, LSU

In the television reps, I was impressed with two LSU offensive linemen. Center Lloyd Cushenberry held up in 1-on-1 reps against defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. Cushenberry stays low, anchors and wins the leverage battle. He has excellent power and it was on display against Kinlaw. After watching games this year, I think he would be an excellent fit in a zone-blocking scheme.
His teammate, Damien Lewis (guard), will also draw attention and fits the zone-blocking profile. Check out this 1-on-1 rep from PFF’s camera angle - (look how much power he displayed when he got inside hand position).
Josh Jones, OT, Houston

At offensive tackle, Houston product Josh Jones has been turning heads. He stood out during Thursday’s 1-on-1 drills. Jones was matched up against Jason Strowbridge, who was a top performer this week. He powerfully mauled Strowbridge during a pass protection rep (below). His length, athleticism and quickness are all traits that NFL coaches can develop. Jones could be in the conversation as a late first-round selection.
Ben Bartch, OT, St. John’s (Minn.)

Although there wasn’t complete television coverage of St John’s offensive lineman Ben Bartch, the D-III prospect has been impressing NFL scouts. This week was a chance for talent evaluators to see him against top-tier competition. Here’s a look at a few of his 1-on-1 reps from Wednesday and Thursday’s television broadcasts:
From people I’ve talked with on the ground in Mobile, it sounds like Bartch held his own and made a very strong impression.
Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State

South Carolina State offensive tackle Alex Taylor is another prospect worth monitoring during the draft process. He measures in at 6-foot-8, 308 pounds with 36 1/8-inch arms and an 88-inch wingspan. When considering all of his rare athletic skills and measurements, a team will invest in his development. At the next level, coaches can fine-tune his technique and physical skills.

Here are a few clips:

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